The histological appearance of percutaneous superficial paraspinal muscle biopsy specimens from eight patients with ankylosing spondylitis was compared with that of biopsy specimens from 13 control patients with similar degrees of disability and spinal immobility due to severe, chronic mechanical back pain. In both groups marked type II muscle fibre atrophy was shown. Additionally, in patients with ankylosing spondylitis there were obvious increases in perifibre connective tissue in association with central migration of cell nuclei but without evidence of inflammation. Qualitative electromyography failed to show denervation changes in either group. Paraspinal muscle fibrosis, occurring over and above atrophic changes due to disuse, seems to be a specific pathological component of ankylosing spondylitis which may be of particular importance in early disease as it may contribute towards back stiffness and weakness.
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